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Most Sensitive Instrument To Detect Traces Of Alien Life

Scientist Created Highly Sensitive Instrument To detect Smallest Traces Of Alien Life In Universe

The mass spectrometer ORIGIN Instrument
The mass spectrometer ORIGIN
Source : phys

The question of whether life exists beyond the world is one among humanity most fundamental questions. Future NASA missions, for instance , aim to look at the ice moons of Jupiter & Saturn, which can potentially shelter life within the liquid oceans underneath the thick layer of ice, on the bottom . Proving traces of life beyond the world is extremely challenging, however. Sensitive instrument which take measurements on the bottom with the best possible degree of autonomy and with high precision – million of kilometers from the planet earth and thus without mission from humankind — are required.

An international group of researchers under the leadership of Andreas Riedo and Niels Ligterink at the University of Bern have now developed ORIGIN, a spectrometer which may detect and identify the littlest amounts of such traces of life. They describe the instrument during a recently published article within the specialist journal Nature Scientific Reports. Niels Ligterink from the middle for Space and Habitability (CSH) is that the lead author of the international study, and co-author Andreas Riedo from the Physics Institute at the University of Bern developed the instrument within the laboratories of the space research and planetary sciences divison of the Physics Institute. Various international space agencies, particularly NASA, have already expressed interest in testing ORIGIN for future missions.

New instrument required

Since the 1st Mars mission “Viking” within the 1970s, humanity has been checking out traces of life on Mars using highly specialized instruments which are installed on landing platforms and rovers. In its early years, Mars was Earth-like, had a dense atmosphere and even liquid water. However, as Niels Ligterink explains, Mars lost its protective atmosphere over the course of time: “As a results of this, the surface of Mars is subjected to high solar and radiation which makes life on the surface impossible.” NASA Curiosity rover is currently examining Mars intimately but with no concrete indications of traces of life so far .

Since the invention by the Cassini and Galileo missions of the worldwide oceans beneath kilometers of ice layers on Jupiter moon Europa and Saturn moon Enceladus, these two bodies have increasingly become the main target of the look for extraterrestrial life for researchers. consistent with current knowledge, the oceans have all of the properties which aren’t only needed for the occurrence of life, but also which give environments during which life can exist within the future . NASA therefore plans to land a mission on Jupiter moon Europa around 2030 and take measurements on the bottom . The goal: Identification of life. Co-author Proffeser Dr. Peter Wurz from the Physics Institute at the University of Bern says: “Concepts which were specially developed for Mars can’t be simply applied to other bodies in our solar system because they’re very different. New instruments with higher sensitivity and simpler and more robust analysis systems must be designed and used.”

Unprecedented measurement sensitivity for proof of life in space

ORIGIN is one such new instrument which outperforms 1st space instruments many terms over in terms of its measurement sensitivty. Various international space agencies have expressed great interest within the instrument for future missions. Andreas Riedo says: “NASA has invited us to particpaite and test our instrument within the Arctic. The Artic is that the optimal test environment within the context of the EUROPA LANDER mission, which should start in 2025, which can allow us to demonstrate the performance of ORIGIN.”

Amino acids are key components of life as we all know it on Earth. Contemporaneous proof of certain amino acids on extraterrestrial surfaces, like those of Europa, allow conclusions to be drawn about possible life. The measurement principle developed by the Bern-based researchers is straight-forward . Niels Ligterink explains: “Laser pulses are directed at the surface to be examined. within the process, small amounts of fabric are detached, the chemical composition of which is analyzed by ORIGIN during a second step.” Andreas Riedo adds: “The compelling aspect of our technology is that no complicated sample preparation techniques, which could potentially affect the result, are required. This was one among the most important problems on Mars so far ,” says Riedo. The amino acids which are analyzed with ORIGIN so far have a selected chemical fingerprint which allows them to be directly identified. Niels Ligterink: “To be honest, we didn’t expect that our first measurements would already be ready to identify amino acids.”

The discovery of traces of past or present life on bodies in our system beyond the world is of great importance for a far better understanding of the existence of life within the universe and its genesis. Andreas Riedo says: “Our new measurement technology may be a real improvement on the instruments currently used on space missions. If we are taken along on a future mission, we could also be ready to answer one among humanity‘ most fundamental questions with ORIGIN: Is there life in space?.”